Over the past fortnight, I’ve had occasion to experience two of the great ceremonies of life, one in person, the other vicariously. Both occasions elicited tears from celebrants and participants alike. There’s something about ceremony that draws us together, connects us, leaves us staggered with the realisation that we are irreducibly social creatures.
And yet, though they have their seasons, these occasions are an infrequent occurrence throughout life. When, through our lives, we reach the pairing-off season, partnerships are celebrated in a variety of ways, each moving to the sharers. As we arrive at a greater age, we must say goodbye to more and more loved ones; we have to recognise that at some point those who love us will be saying goodbye to ourselves. Marking these occasions, putting a lot of thought into them and making them special and unique, we capture our humanity, it seems to me, a humanity that we often take for granted as we get on with living.
The joy experienced at these events is something we love to hold on to; trawling through 700 photographs yesterday evening that documented the experience of a partnership formalised, we could feel that shared joy like a physical presence. Although we tend not to keep images of our experience of funerals, we do present snapshots of the beloved’s life to the folks gathered to remember. Perhaps that sharing helps to seer the day’s memory into our mind’s eye in a way that photographs of the occasion cannot enhance, though I shall treasure the picture our cousins insisted on taking of us three brothers, arms around each other’s shoulders.
However we mark these occasions, they feel so important to the process of living, and in this blog celebrating life’s joys it would be remiss not to remark on them. Even for a shy and recalcitrant hermit, getting out and about with family and friends once in a while, on occasions marked with ceremony, can be a joy that keeps on giving.